The Crayola Marker Incident

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So, this weekend, the family and I decide to have lunch at a local Asian fusion restaurant, and because I have a cold, I order some green tea with my meal.

As the tea arrives, I pour myself a cup and notice that a strange greasy substance is beading all across the surface. A strange... bright yellow greasy substance. Kind of like... chicken grease, only thicker and shinier. Hmmm. Weird.

I lift the filter cap off the tea pot, and notice that the tea inside the pot also has a lot of the weird yellow stuff floating around. Perplexed, I stir the pot a bit, and that's when I realize what the yellow stuff is. There's something floating around in the tea. A rectangular piece of paper. No, a YELLOW rectangular piece of paper. No... a yellow rectangular piece of paper with letters printed on it: CRAYOLA.

The waiter brings us our food, and politely I jokingly ask him if he can please bring me a pot of tea without a dissolved Crayola marker inside. At first, he thinks it's a joke, but he looks inside and starts to freak out. Apologies start flying. He takes the teapot to the kitchen, and the manager gets involved. From what we can hear where our table sits, the teapot incident is now the topic of discussion in the kitchen, and the manager is NOT happy. Minutes later, the waiter emerges with a fresh pot of tea, apologizes a half dozen times, and tells us that our entire meal has been comped.

The poor kid got a good tip, and we'll be eating there again.

I would tell you what the restaurant is, but I don't want to give them bad publicity. The Crayola marker in the teapot thing is not the sort of thing that a restaurant wants to be known for. It's unfortunate, because they responded to the crisis perfectly, and I would love to give them their well-deserved props.

And Crayola markers are non-toxic.

The point of this post is this: Sometimes, businesses make mistakes. How they react when these mistakes pop up is perhaps more telling about them than the fact that someone in their organization made a mistake in the first place.

This business made a mistake, but corrected it immediately. The manager enacted new mandatory tea pot inspections within minutes of the incident. The kitchen was immediately briefed. The restaurant didn't only apologize, it also paid for our entire meal. We didn't have to argue. We didn't have to act angry. We didn't have to threaten... not that we would have. I wasn't all that bothered by the Crayola marker. I would have been happy with a fresh pot of tea and an apology. Frankly, the free meal was unnecessary... but not everyone is as laid back as yours truly.

Perhaps out of pure professionalism or out of fear that a customer could sue them or give them the kind of publicity that could gravely damage them, they didn't try to blow it off. They didn't try to pass the buck. They didn't offer us a free dessert. They didn't give us 25% OFF coupons for our next visit. They took care of the problem right away, and treated us like valued customers.

Well played.

If only more businesses did damage control and customer service as well as this restaurant, the world would be a better place.

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